Alan Parker 14th February 1944 – 31st July 2020

When I think of movies I think of Alan Parker. He has always been in my viewing life. He wrote one of the all-time great films about children, Melody, and that was his first screenwriting job when he was an award-winning advertising copywriter. After a few shorts and the great TV play The Evacuees by Jack Rosenthal he endeared himself to children the world over with the fabulous parody of gangster flicks, Bugsy Malone, when all you could get hurt by was a cream pie in the kisser in a film that was perfectly pitched because this is a man who had a special affinity for young people. I cried and laughed at Birdy and Shoot the Moon (okay, I mainly cried at that one). I was stunned by Midnight Express (when I was finally old enough to see it) and have yet to set foot in Turkey; and had my head turned by Fame (one of my big thrills was seeing Lee Curreri in real life!). My own heart stopped several times watching Mickey Rourke square off against De Niro in Angel Heart. Ditto Mississippi Burning, a film that brought home the Deep South in visceral fashion. Returning to Ireland to see The Commitments in Savoy One O’Connell Street is a memory I shall cherish forever:  Kilbarrack on the big screen!  Who would believe it!  And Ireland held a special place for Parker, returning to do Angela’s Ashes after his great big musical adventure with Evita. His last film, The Life of David Gale, came out 17 years ago. I don’t know why he stopped making films:  I have often found myself asking that question. He was a big character, the least British filmmaker you could imagine – argumentative, strong-minded, decent, musically driven, witty, slick, bold. He didn’t make enough movies. Or maybe he made just the right number. All that matters is this: Alan Parker’s movies move me. Rest in peace, the late, great Alan Parker.

It’s not my job to make you comfortable in the cinema

Movies are an artistic expression which communicates viscerally

Great cinema is as much about ideas and possibilities as it is about facts. The mixing of the objective and subjective can be a lethal cocktail in storytelling – but it’s not always to everyone’s taste

 

Olivia de Havilland 1st July 1916 – 25th July 2020

Adieu Olivia de Havilland, the grande dame of the silver screen and double Oscar winner, who has died at her home in Paris at the age of 104. With her goes that last sliver of glamour from Hollywood as the one remaining performer from 1939’s ultimate studio production, Gone With the Wind. You were adored.

Playing bad girls is a bore. I have always had more luck with good-girl roles, because they require more from an actress.

I don’t need a fantasy life as once I did. That is the life of the imagination and I had a great need for it. Films were the perfect means of satisfying that need.

Ennio Morricone 10th November 1928 – 6th July 2020

Renowned Italian composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. He gained fame along with his classmate Sergio Leone for whom he created some of the most iconic scores in cinema with the Dollars Trilogy but was working with comedy auteur Luciano Salce from his earliest days in the industry and contributed to the scores of films in all genres – crime, musical, horror, thriller, drama – before he became famous with that particular variation on America’s foundation narrative, the spaghetti western, even if he occasionally worked under a pseudonym. And it is those signature themes that mark him out from almost every other composer, so embedded are they in our collective consciousness, synonymous with sparse storytelling, merciless mercenaries with no name, dangerous sand swept towns, dastardly narrow-eyed villains and stunning shootouts. He worked with every other great Italian director and western maker at the time – Sergio Corbucci, Sergio Sollima, Giulio Petroni, Dario Argento, Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Gillo Pontecorvo and Liliana Cavani to name but the obvious. His work in Hollywood exposed him to ever wider audiences and the lyrical sweep and the lustrous tones of scores to films such as The Untouchables and The Mission finally introduced him to some of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who gave him a Lifetime Honour in 2008 and ultimately awarded him an Oscar for Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. He had a classical training and played trumpet but also got involved with the avant garde which surely informed some of the unusual instrumentation in a lifetime of 500 or so scores which didn’t even represent his total output because he was a composer and songwriter in his own right. His name went before him,so transcendent is his impact in the culture. An absurdly prolific man, a true musical visionary and a keen performer to appreciative crowds, the Maestro is gone. Long live the Maestro.

Jill Gascoine 11th April 1937 – 28th April 2020

The wonderful British actress Jill Gascoine has sadly died. She had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for some years but in her heyday she was a star of primetime TV, with her earliest notable role in The Onedin Line (she was Letty, James’s second wife) and then she led that great crime show The Gentle Touch from 1980 through 1984 in a pioneering role as Detective Inspector Maggie Forbes. She followed it with C.A.T.S. Eyes, about an all-female detective team. Latterly she had taken to writing some fine novels while living in Hollywood with her second husband, Alfred Molina, who survives her. Rest in peace.